This was brought home to me in a very good way yesterday, when William stopped me just before I left to pick up Janey and showed me the certificate he received at school, stating he was going to be the valedictorian of his high school class. To say I was proud is to put it as mildly as it can be put. I was out of my mind proud, in tears proud, overwhelmed with emotion proud. And my mind did one of those things that usually only happen in movies. It did a sweep back on William's life. I saw him as a premature baby, a quirky little fellow, a kid who had trouble adjusting to school, a kid that took some time to find his place in the world. Then I saw him in high school---working until 2 am on homework, often, striving for excellence every single second. And I saw---it was all him. I had very, very little to do with it. He did the work. I can honestly say I never once helped him with homework after about 2nd grade. Once Janey was born, a bit after that, in some ways, he raised himself. We gave him a bed, food, love, but we in no way directed his schoolwork or insisted on him working. Instead, we often begged him to take breaks, to not knock himself out quite so much. But he had his own goals, his own personality, and that is what makes me so proud---that he set his own agenda, made his own dream and then followed it.
When it comes to Janey, it's harder to let myself believe that she will do the same, but I do, in a deep part of me, believe that she will. It's unlikely she will do it in the way William did, but she has things that drive her, just like William does. When she wants to know how to do something, she figures it out. I watch her sometimes now with her hands dancing over the iPad, or picking the exact episode she wants on Netflix, or finding all the ingredients to the dish she wants Tony to fix, or finding a way to ask me for the song she wants to hear. None of those things came easily to her, but she had goals, even if she didn't think of them that way. She wants to control her world, her activities, what she hears and sees and does, as much as anyone does. We by necessity have to hold her back, often. We can't let her use the stove, as I think she longs to, we can't let her go outside and explore in the freezing cold, we have to cut off her TV viewing at times. But she is showing us her way, and like with William, I think a lot of parenting is stepping out of the way as much as is safe and healthy and possible, and letting her work toward what drives her. The autism makes this tricky. I think of it as a handicap, not in the old way of handicapped kids, but in the way of a race horse or a golf player---something that she has to work against. This might not be totally politically correct to think---I think I'm supposed to see it as a part of her, but I don't, always. I see it as part of her own individual path, something she must work around. It's a lot bigger than what most of us are given to work around, and in the end, it will limit what she can do. There's no getting around that. But it won't stop her from becoming, as much as she can, who she is.
I am proud of all three of my children. They have different abilities, different goals, different needs, but that is what makes life interesting. They are all gonna be what they're gonna be.